Saturday, March 3, 2012

It's All Just Stepping Stones

You know how you can tell when writer's are done writing?

They're dead.

We're not alone in this, of course.  Artists and musicians, anybody in a creative field, really, will have the same problem.  I'm not saying that we can't shut our brains off, and we're constantly working on our magnum  Opii?

What I'm talking about is that we're never really done writing.  We might be thinking of this project in front of us, but the next one's already beating on the back of our brains.  And maybe another one after that, and another, and another.

That's a good thing.  See, everything we do, they're all just stepping stones to the next thing.

When I first started writing I had it in my head that I wanted to write a novel.  But I didn't think I could do it.  So I started small with the idea that one thing would lead to the next.  Short stories led to other short stories, which led to a book, which led to another book, which got me an agent, which got me a publisher, which led to yet another book and so on.  Not all of it has paid, but all of it has been valuable.

I wouldn't call it a plan, so much as a rough career guideline.  And it changes constantly.  I'm just getting started and I'm learning a lot of sometimes painful lessons.

My first novel came out in January, and already it's helped open up other opportunities and other projects.  I'm doing some gaming work, I did some stuff for a comic coming out in April, got some other things lining up after those.

I know not everyone looks at it that way, particularly new writers.  I've met a lot of people who are looking at the one thing that they're doing and that's it.  Looking at getting published as the end all, or getting an agent, or just finishing the book.  And that's fine, and those immediate goals should be foremost in their minds.

But I think that can be dangerous, too.  It's easy to get target-fixated.  To get so focused that you forget why you wanted to write in the first place, or that there's something after that book deal.

I think that mentality's partly responsible for a lot of the rush to self-publishing out there, right now.  Not just self-publishing's ease of entry, but also the idea that it's some kind of magic device that automatically gives you unicorn shit and handjobs and when you press that button all your work is done.

I'd invite any writer, or artist, musician, etc. to stop looking at the thing right in front of them, and take a look at little further down the road.  Instead of seeing your goal as just your goal, try looking at it as a jumping point to your next one.

Open questions for you.  What's next?  What are you going to do after you're done with what you're on now?  What projects are you itching to tackle?  How are you going to get there?

I'd honestly love to know.

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